A Most Important Event

This cool passage from David Metz’ book The Limits to Travel was posted on Tom Vanderbilt’s How We Drive blog (emphasis added):

All in all, the available evidence supports the idea that man has evolved to travel long distances by both walking and running. As man developed technologies, these could be exploited to travel farther and faster. Thus the origins of much of the history and geography of mankind that we learnt in school, not least the willingness of people to migrate from where they were born to other cities or strange new countries in search of a better life. This has had implications for our own evolution. Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College London (UCL), has pointed out that if one’s ancestors came from the same village they may well have been related, but this is much less likely if they were born hundreds of miles apart. In 19th-century Oxfordshire, the average distance between birthplaces of marriage partners was less than ten miles. Now it is more than 50, and in the US it is several hundred. A consequence of this increasing mobility is that the world’s populations are beginning to merge genetically. Steve Jones suggests that the most important event in recent human evolution has been the invention of the bicycle.

How We Drive
The Limits to Travel

3 Responses to “A Most Important Event”

  • Nicolas says:

    In a first reading, it is difficult to link the last sentence to the rest of the text. Maybe, what the author wants to explain, is that after the invention of bicycle it became the first time the humans were able to easy meet the other humans who lived several dozens miles from them.
    But what about what horses allowed ? They were used before the bicycles. This is what I do not understand here. I will maybe buy the book. It probably contains more explanations.

  • Shawn says:

    I would take it one step further and say that the bicycle represents the zenith of man’s achievements. Everything after that is just window dressing.

  • Nipper says:

    @ Nicolas, In the later part of the 19th Century and early 20th the average person would have not been able to afford a horse. The bicycle was the first cheap form of personal transport and allowed young men from one town to meet up with young ladies from the next. If you factor in the gentle strumming of the ukulele as the ideal way for a chap to woo a girl. The combination of bicycle and ukulele must have lead to a huge leap in genetic diversity during the early part of the 20th century.

    With a renaissance in the popularity of both the bicycle and the ukulele we should see a flourishing of old fashioned romance!

    Best
    Nipper

 
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